You can’t bend the truth but you can bend your arm

Congratulations to Muttiah Muralitharan on taking your 709th Test wicket, thus passing Shane Warne’s old record of 708.

Should I stop there? Dare I say what I really think?

Oh no. Call the PC police. Self publishing is a wonderful thing.

I have previously discussed in detail what I think of the legalities of Murali’s action. See:

I don’t propose to rehash it here – click on the link if you want to – I don’t want to be appear a bad loser. Warne’s own disparaging remarks over the past weeks, months (and years) are unattractive and ungracious.

In summary, I believe that Murali chucks. It’s complicated. Murali can’t straighten his right arm fully. I acknowledge that he is a rubber man and there are wrists, shoulders and elbows rotating and moving in all directions. I couldn’t be sure Murali chucks every delivery. He probably doesn’t. I’m pretty sure he chucks every doosra.

And what is a “chuck” anyway? Do we mean that the bowler has straightened his arm more than 15 degrees or that he has simply chucked the ball – i.e. measured by the old standards. A reckon that chuck is what any experienced cricket watcher can detect, just be looking. Of course, either the ICC does not subscribe to this view or they do not consider that their international umpires are experienced cricket watchers.

Murali is playing his 116th Test – 29 Tests less than Shane Warne. His numbers are quite simply incredible. He has taken five wickets in an innings 61 times. I repeat, 61 – Six-one. That is 23 times more than Warne (next best). Murali has two nine wicket hauls and three eight wicket hauls. Has has taken 10 or more wickets in a match on 20 occasions (that will probably be 21 in two days time). Warne (next best) achieved the feat on 10 occasions. Murali’s average is 21.77 – that puts him 32nd on the list but right up there with the greats. Warne is not on the list, but still with a very respectable 25.42. Amazing numbers – Murali is 35 years old and who know how much the numbers will grow.

Murali took 27 Tests to take his first 100 wickets. Warne took 23 Test. They both reached 200 in 42 Tests. After the first 100 wickets, Murali has taken between 12 and 16 Tests for each hundred. Quite the opposite for Warne. After the first hundred, he has taken about 18 Tests for hundred and took 29 Tests for the 4th hundred.

Murali Warnie
Wickets Tests Test/hundred Wickets Tests Test/hundred
100 27 27 100 23 23
200 42 15 200 42 19
300 58 16 300 63 21
400 72 14 400 92 29
500 87 15 500 108 16
600 101 14 600 126 18
700 113 12 700 144 18

There has been quite some talk, not the least of it from Shane Keith Warne about Murali having many wickets against the minnows. Murali does have 163 wickets against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe and it is true that is a lot. But as Murali says, he doesn’t chose who he plays against. That aside, the 547 wickets he has taken against “non minnows” have come at an average of 23.68 – still well ahead of Warne’s career averages.

But what do the numbers mean? We should never forget that the rules of cricket were changed for one man. Muttiah Muralitharan. Why? To keep Sri Lankan cricket in the game. Who is third on the Sri Lankan Test cricket wicket takers list? You guessed it: Opening batsman, Sanath Jayasuriya with 97 wickets. Sri Lanka have had just two bowlers in their 26 year Test history: Vaas and Muralitharan. In order to give Sri Lanka traction in the nasty world of international cricket, and because the ICC was not man enough to address a difficult issue in this age of racial tension and blind political correctness, the rules were changed.

Truth is perception. What once was a chuck, is no longer a chuck. The ICC, in changing the law, have admitted that Murali is a chucker in the traditional sense. If not, why did the rule need to be changed?

However, all that being said, is to the detriment of the ICC. I don’t regard Murali as a cheat. He does what he does in plain view – he has not tried to conceal anything and has had all sorts of tests done. He is a fierce competitor, is lion hearted, he will bowl all day and often is required to and he’s not afraid to chance his arm with a bit of willow in hand. And chucker or not, there is a lot of skill in what he does.

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